Reconsider Coconut Oil: Fat Phobia?

coconut has risen to the top for healthy eating

Saturated fats have long been unfairly vilified in the media.  While we have, as a nation, reduced our fat consumption steadily for the past few decades, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease have skyrocketed.  In truth, saturated fat plays a number of critical roles in the body (if this is news to you, please check out this prior newsletter entry).  Did you know that the membrane of every cell in your body is made of fat?  Over 10,000,000,000 of them?  And that those membranes are at least 50% saturated fat?  We need strong, supple membranes to keep toxins out of cells, to facilitate nutrients moving in, and to keep cellular signaling working optimally.  Your brain is made mostly of fat too.  Saturated fat protects your liver from alcohol and other toxins we all face in our modern lifestyles.  And the lungs and kidneys can’t function without it.  Saturated fat also strengthens the immune system to prevent infections and is necessary to ensure the calcium you eat actually makes it into your bones.

Of course the catch is that it must be high-quality saturated fat.  One of the best options available – and my personal favorite (yum!) – is extra virgin coconut oil.  Yes, it’s saturated.  And yes, it’s wonderfully healthy for you!  This natural, tropical oil is pressed straight from coconuts and is loaded with medium-chain saturated fatty acids (MCTs), a specific type that our bodies have a hard time storing.  This means MCTs are more readily available for burning for energy.  Coconut oil is full of a monoglyceride called lauric acid which is naturally antimicrobial and antibacterial. In research studies, coconut oil has been shown to aid in improving ailments such as low thyroid function, candida and other bacterial infections, obesity, and asthma.   Even if you’re already an avid fan of coconut oil, be sure to check out this excellent compilation of research findings  highlighting some of the fascinating benefits of coconut oil.   In my practice, many clients have had great success eating it daily to support sustained weight loss (~2 Tbsp/day, ideally in the morning).   And this isn’t news!   Back in 2009, a study showed that coconut oil consumption actually helped people to lose belly fat and raise their protective HDL cholesterol levels!  It’s also excellent as a post-shower moisturizer, especially at night, to nourish dry winter skin.

Enjoy coconut oil as a delicious alternative to butter (it’s soft and spreadable) or cook with it for a milder flavor.  Nutiva is my favorite brand because of it’s just-fell-off-the-tree, fresh coconut taste, but most grocery stores sell at least one brand in their “healthier food” section.  You can also find excellent deals ordering on-line in larger size tubs.  I particularly like to use coconut oil to grill fish, to sauté vegetables, or to stir-fry shrimp with vegetables.  One of my favorite stir-fry combinations includes shrimp, garlic, onions, peppers, bokchoy and pineapple. Stir-fried in coconut oil and topped with minced cilantro and chopped macadamia nuts, this makes a lovely meal reminiscent of the tropics.  Or try this months’ special smoothie recipe for a cool, refreshing, balanced breakfast (or dinner on a sultry evening).